Partnerships / Acquisitions

Apple Acquires Init.ai To Help Siri Get Smarter

Startup Init.ai announced that it is discontinuing its service – a smart assistant for customer representatives – to join Apple and work on Siri.

According to news from TechCrunch, this is not a straight acquisition, but more of an acqui-hire. There is also no IP coming over, and no specific indication of whether any part of Init’s code or services will be used by Apple.

The company seems to have only six employees, including co-founders Keith Brisson, Will Dawoodi, Kyle DeTella and Trevor McNaughton, and it’s unknown exactly how many are moving to Apple.

On the company’s website, this message appears on the homepage: “Today is an exciting day for our team. Init.ai is joining a project that touches the lives of countless people across the world. We are thrilled and excited at the new opportunities this brings us. However, this means Init.ai will discontinue its service effective December 16th, 2017. While we wish to make this transition as smooth as possible, we cannot continue to operate Init.ai going forward.”

Based out of New York, Init.ai was founded in 2015, raising an undisclosed amount of funding from six investors according to Crunchbase: Boldstart Ventures, Danmar Capital, Esther Dyson, Jim Young, Techstars and Valence Ventures.

This deal is proof that Apple is currently working to boost its artificial intelligence talent pool. In fact, its previous three disclosed acquisitions – Regaind, SensoMotoric Instruments and Lattice – have all brought in more people skilled in the many facets of AI. Init offers Apple natural language and machine-learning expertise, with a B2C slant.

“AI is now a major internal initiative at Apple,” said one source.

In addition, the Init news could mean that Apple is looking to launch business integrations with its voice-based assistant. The company already introduced Business Chat, where users can open iMessage windows in Safari, Maps, Spotlight and Siri (as well as iMessage itself) to initiate conversations with businesses. Business Chat offers text-based conversations with humans – which happens to be where Init.ai was building tools, including a set of AI-based skills around natural language processing and machine learning, to analyze chat-based conversations between humans. Listening in real time, the chatbot platform provides prompts for automated responses and also analyzes the conversations to provide insights for future customer relations, as well as further actions to take.

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